The spring flowers are in full bloom in our garden now, tulips, the blueberry bushes, lilacs and the dogwood tree. Spring really is the most colorful time of year. Driving across town this afternoon, I saw pink-bloomed ornamentals, including flowering plums, such beautiful harbingers of this season. Years ago when we lived in Sequim in a new home that needed lots of landscaping, Beve's mom bought us an ornamental plum, which we planted just out our back door below a corner of our deck. It took a couple of years, but when it began to bloom, I was captivated by it.
One spring day, one of the last years we lived out there, while I was at work, Beve's dad came by our house. We only lived about a mile away from Grampie, and popped in and out of each other's homes all the time. In fact, they were our nearest grocery store. When I was short a cup of sugar or an egg, I just hopped on our scooter and shopped in their pantry and refrigerator. And Grampie felt just as at home as we did. I'd come home some days and he'd be sitting at our computer, putting in a new program or something. Anyway, this particular spring day, when I walked up onto our deck, I noticed that our plum tree had been raped and pillaged. Pruned within an inch of its life. Long branches with glorious pink blossoms were scattered beneath it. Grampie had taken it upon himself to prune our tree--at the very worst time! The tree, denuded of so many branches, had a huge hole right in the middle of it! And I was furious. To cut off limbs when a tree is in full bloom feels sacriligious to me. And then to leave those branches lying where they fell...well, nothing about this act made me happy. And being the shy, retiring type that I am, you can imagine my conversation with Grampie about it. Grampie, unflappable as always, just laughed at my frustration. Come to think of it, that's his typical response to most conflicts or outrages at him. Quite unnerving.
See, I don't like pruning trees. Yes, I know it's important, I know the point is to actually yield more fruit, but it still goes against my feelings. Beve can be pretty ruthless; he is a lot like his dad, though I can't imagine him pruning a tree while it's in full flower. And I'll always maintaim that Grampie was wrong that day. Obviously, I haven't gotten over it.
But pruning--the cutting off of branches in order to attain a greater harvest, more flowers, a healthier plant--is pretty hard for me to accept in the best of times. Even harder is the truth that pruning is really Kingdom work. I want to hold onto, with all my might, every last limb of myself, inside and out. I want a harvest of Godly fruit in my character and my relationships, but without the painful work of pruning. Without having to have dead and worthless branches cut out of me. But there's no choice. All those dead, unproductive branches cause me more harm than good. The dead must be sawed off so that the whole can live and be effective. And though sometimes it feels like God's pruning off blooming branches, and even that those branches are lying on the floor of my life, slowly dying, I trust that all--and what a large word that all is--He's doing is shaping me, clipping away what will not produce a harvest of holiness.
I don't know how that ornamental plum tree felt that day--being unable to speak tree as I am--but I know that it's okay to grieve the loss of a limb, and that it's only right to look forward to a better yield of fruit in my life. Beve usually asks me how much of our trees he should clip. I always err on the conservative side, then watch him be far more ruthless than I would be. Thankfully God is exactly the same way. The goal of Beve's ruthlessness is that harvest. The goal of God's is my life.